Synth Thoughts: Modular Designs (past and present)

Modular synth folks spend more time thinking about how to assemble which modules in which cases than actually using them – that’s how the saying goes.

I looked at what I have on modulargrid.net, took screenshots, and decided to comment on my findings in this context here.

In case you didn’t know, modulargrid.net is a great place. If you haven’t done already, you should create an account. If you do modular things, that is. Also, all the mockup pics here are from there. They have a screenshot founction which does that for you.

Current Canon

Within the total of five cases I have, there are two canon systems: the TNG Mothership (which takes up two cases assembled together), and the Calypso.

The TNG Mothership is the big one, used for all the heavy-lifting,modular-centric things. It’s usually combined with a drum machine/groovebox, a mixer and a keyboard synth. More on the evolution of that big Spielsachen setup here.

The Calypso is a small case (with MIDI interface) including two synth voices and a few additional things. It’s usually fielded together with a groovebox to provide two analogue voices.

Current Branches

I decided to combine two modules I use all the time – Nebulae and Mimeophon – with two modules I wanted to learn more about – Marbles and Stages. This is what happened:

I call this Not Donald because of the “I can’t believe it’s not a Buchla” sticker on the back, masking the Moog label.

This thing lacks any proper signal sources (oscillators, samples players), but there’s two really multirole things (Nebulae and Disting) in it, and both Stages (especially with the Qiemen firmware) and Marbles can also work as oscillators. So it’s a creative processor, and with all the random/pseudorandom CV sources in there, can do some generative ambient noise for sure! I wanted to do a Spielsachen video with this, but then…

…I had the sudden urge to use Marbles to control two synth voices and pair it with a drum machine – Granturismo was born. I paired it with the MC-707 and had a lot of fun doing generative minimal techno.

Other Designs

Some time ago, I discussed possible modular setups with Tracy Harms aka @kaleidic. The result was Harms Way.

Frankly, I can’t remember what this was about, but there’s a repeating pattern with Nebulae, Mimeophon and Marbles…

TNG Mothership Future Ideas

First, I thought about what I could remove from the TNG Mothership to make room for other (new?) things, or to have a main system with space to fill on demand:

Seeing this today, I immediately made a newer version, which I failed to export, but which has a few more modules gone.

With 264TE to spare (if I counted that correctly in my head), it seems that there’s not that many modules I need, after all..

Another idea was to separate into a more digital/aleatoric side (the top two rows) and a more controlled and analogue side (the bottom two rows). I called this sketch Yin Yang.

Note that both Yin Yang and the two things above were created before I added precision adders and switchable mults, so they’re not there. I might add them if I followed any of those routes.

And finally, something where I looked for newer fancy modules, aptly titled A Costly Future.

Spielsachen Past

Older editions of Spielsachen (before the move tot the TNG Mothership, i.e. only two monster rows) were still present. The older Future Past

…and the newer Future Squared.

I frankly don’t remember at all how they were related to each other. Maybe Future Squared was the last version before the TNG Mothership, and Future Past the one before that?

Spare Modules (as of now)

This rig was unfittingly called Garbage Collection and includes all the modules and semimodulars that are currently not built into a case (which doesn’t mean that I don’t use the semimodulars, quite the contrary).

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